Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today announced that the Suffolk County Department of Health Services has launched a new partnership with the Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital to provide nearly 150 schools with over 500 tick-removal kits throughout Suffolk County. The initiative will equip school nurses with tick-removal kits as well as provide schools with tick-borne-disease prevention information to educate students and faculty on measures that should be taken to protect themselves.
“This partnership demonstrates how schools, hospitals, and county government can work together to protect our residents from the dangers of tick-borne diseases,” said County Executive Bellone. “I thank our partners at the Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center of Stony Brook Southampton Hospital for providing these useful tick-removal kits, and our Health Department personnel for initiating this innovative project that will protect our students from debilitating diseases.”
The first tick-removal kit was delivered in person last Friday to the Eastport-South Manor Central School District, which is where a substitute nurse had removed ticks from four children in one day. Additional school administrators will receive the tick-removal kits in the mail this week.
Last weekend, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services distributed a total of 516 kits to 145 schools across the county. The tick-removal kits comprise of fine-tipped tweezers and a magnifying glass that will assist school nurses when removing ticks. In addition, the kits will include antiseptic cloths, antibiotic ointment, bandages, and a tick identification card.
The inspiration to distribute tick-removal kits to school nurses started with a discussion between a school nurse and her father, who happens to be Suffolk County’s Chief of the Arthropod-Borne-Disease Laboratory, Dr. Scott Campbell. A deer tick, which transmits Lyme disease, must remain attached to the body for approximately 36 hours to transmit the disease. With this in mind, Dr. Campbell contacted the Tick-Borne-Disease Research Center at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital to ask if they would partner with the Suffolk County Department of Health Services to provide important information and specialized tick-removal kits to public and private schools.
Dr. Scott Campbell, Suffolk County Chief of Arthropod-Borne Disease Laboratory, said: “My daughter, a nurse at the Eastport-South Manor school district, came home from work one day and told me that she had removed ticks from four children that day. She also mentioned that the tweezers she had available to her were inadequate for properly removing ticks. That’s when I got the idea that all school nurses should have the best resources available to know what to look for and be able to remove ticks properly."
Dr. Linda Mermelstein, Chief Deputy Commissioner of Health Services for Suffolk County, said: “The number of cases of tick-borne disease reported to New York State may not reflect the total number of cases as it is likely that there are many more cases that go undiagnosed for a variety of reasons. While diagnosis determines treatment, we believe that the best way to reduce the number of cases of tick-borne disease is to prevent them from happening."
Karen C. Wulffraat, Administrative Director of the Regional Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, said: “I thought it was a great idea. It’s easy for kids to come in contact with ticks because they recreate outdoors. Providing our school nurses with the best tool to safely remove a tick is a first line of defense toward preventing tick disease in our vulnerable children.”
There has been growing concern about tick-borne diseases in Suffolk County. According to officials at the Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, the call center expects to double the call volume that it received in 2016 by the end of 2017. As of August 2017, Registered Nurse Rebecca Young alone had spoken to over 650 callers across the northeast. Suffolk County alone reported 644 cases of Lyme disease in 2016 -- the most common tick-borne disease in the county.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the proper and prompt removal of ticks helps reduce the risk of disease transmission. The CDC recommends the use of fine-tipped tweezers to properly remove ticks. Among the diseases carried by ticks on Long Island are Lyme disease, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Suffolk County residents who wish to seek guidance regarding ticks and tick-borne diseases may contact the Stony Brook Southampton Hospital Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center Help Line at (631) 726-TICK. For more information, visit the Suffolk County Department of Health Services tick prevention program.
Photo of Tick-Removal Kit Available Here
Photo Caption (L to R): Rebecca Young, RN, BSN, and Karen C. Wulffraat, Administrative Director, of the Regional Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital; Patrick K. Brimstein, Ed.D., Superintendent of Eastport-South Manor Central School District; Linda Mermelstein, MD, MPH, Chief Deputy Commissioner, and Scott Campbell, PhD, Chief of the Arthropod-Borne-Disease Laboratory of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.